Getting into Private School

Here we cover the private school admissions process from the application to the interview. Get information on how admissions works, when and how to apply, and tips on preparing for testing and interviewing. Learn what you should look for on a school visit and questions you should ask during the interview.
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Every application to private school goes through a thorough review process. The more competitive the school, the more exhaustive that review process becomes. So, the question we parents want answered is simply: how do we make sure our child's application gets to that final, all important "Approved" stack of folders. Put another way, how do we ensure that our child's application has legs? (Having legs is an expression which speaks to the endurance of whatever is supposed to have legs.) With respect to admissions applications the idea is to advance your child's application from one stage of the process to the next until finally you achieve a positive outcome.
Here is what to do to ensure that your child's private school application has legs.
All required documentation has been submitted.
This sounds so simple, yet you would be amazed at how often an admissions application can founder right at the beginning of the review process. The staffer who reviews your child's application has a checklist of the required materials which must be in the folder. If something is missing, the folder goes into a stack for applications which have missing documents. It cannot normally advance to the next stage of the process for the reading and critical assessment of all those materials unless it is complete. 

Ann Dolin sheds some light on the private school admissions process in this short video.
Note: each school has its own admissions procedures and protocols. The more competition there is for places . . .read more
In Why Should I Admit Your Child? I looked at the admissions process from the school's perspective. Now let's turn the tables and look at the question from a parent's point of view. There are many reasons why you would want to send your child to a particular school. Let's examine the main ones.

The school offers the amount of financial aid I require. For most of us financial aid is a top concern when it comes to selecting a private school. Whether you need everything paid for or just a bit of help to make attending private school viable for you and your family, you need to calculate the amount of aid you need. Then be very clear with the schools you have on your short list what your financial requirements are. Completing the Parents' Financial Statement as soon as you can before the end of a calendar year will help immensely. That data is sent the the schools which you select. Each school determines the amount of financial aid they award based on their own formula, as opposed to some predetermined national or state rule or regulation. Giving them the information they require to make those decisions about financial aid awards by the deadlines means that your request will be considered in the first round of awards.

The school fits most of my requirements. When you first began exploring your options for private school, you looked at all the schools out . . .read more
As I have mentioned several times in other articles about choosing and evaluating private schools, you really must set foot on the campus. Those professionally produced videos on the schools' web sites are great. The students' YouTube videos reveal a bit of what life is like at their school. But these presentations are all carefully edited - and rightly so - and designed to encourage you to learn more about their school. After you do your in-depth reading of all the schools' materials, it's time for you to decide which schools to visit.

For example, let's say you had 6 schools which really appear to be a good match for your  requirements and your child's needs. Then you must eliminate 2, preferably 3 schools from that larger list. Especially if you have selected schools located at a distance from where you live. Visiting 6 schools away from home will be both time-consuming and expensive. So, make that short list of 3 schools to actually visit.

The visits will take one of these forms:

Open House
The way an open house works is that the school advertises that it will be open on a specified date and time. For anybody who wants to look around. The admissions staff will be on hand to answer questions. It's a wonderful way to walk around and see the facilities. The downside is that you won't necessarily get to see any classes. Those kind of logistics can
become a bit complicated . . .read more
Recommendation forms completed and submitted your child's current principal or head or guidance counsellor are an important part of the applications process. They have to be handled according to each school's very specific instructions. They are the evidence the school needs to substantiate and all oral or written statements about your child. These
documents are not hearsay or anecdotal. They are professional opinions and records which the school needs to review. They complete an important part of your child's application. But remember: teacher or principal and other confidential recommendations are just one part of the applications process. On the other hand, be aware that the principal or counsellor will tell it like it is. Professionally but at the same time clinically.

Where Are the Forms?
On the school's web site under Admissions. Typically you can download the Principal/Head/Counselor Recommendation Forms which are available in PDF format like most of the other admissions materials. You complete the information at the top of the form, then hand the blank form to your child's principal or head of school or, in some cases, the school's guidance counsellor. Be sure to include an envelope addressed directly to the school's admissions office. Stamp the envelope before you give it to the counsellor or principal's office. Remind the counsellor to submit the recommendation forms as soon as possible, in any event no later than December 31 for mid-January deadlines.

You waive your right to review or even see what the counsellor writes . . .read more
Most of these suggestions are common sense. But take time to review them well in advance of visiting schools and doing the actual applications.

1. Write a good essay.
"Essay?" " Write?" I can just imagine what you are thinking about what your child will do on this part of the application. However, why not do what you always do: plan ahead. Download the Candidate Statement portion of the school's application. Print out a couple of copies. Then, starting in July or August, though you can do it any time, of course, have your child work the questions and think about the answers. That way, when it comes time in December and January to complete those parts of the application, she'll will be able to write confidently, clearly and concisely.

"But her spelling is atrocious. She texts all the time and doesn't spell or capitalize according to the rules." That is a very real concern that you should have. And it's another reason why she needs to do a couple of dry runs before the real thing. While I don't suggest that you correct her work for content, I strongly suggest that you remind her how important it is to follow the rules of good grammar and syntax. Teach her the skill of mirroring the context or person she is dealing with. It's a valuable life skill as you very well know. Again, don't attempt to write the essay for her. Why? Because when you go for . . .read more
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Getting into Private School

How Admissions Works

The private school admissions process can be competitive. Explore the process, compile your profile and submit your application with help from our tips and tools. Explore the challenges of getting into private school and the most common mistakes made during the admission process.


An in depth look at the private school application process. From teacher recommendations to the acceptance letter, we'll explore some of the most crucial aspects of applying to private school. Learn more about when and how to apply, why the deadlines are important and what to do when your child is accepted.

Test Preparation

Standardized tests are a large part of the admission process at many private schools. Here you'll find information on the most commonly used exams and how to prepare for them. Explore the tests, what the scores mean, and how the schools will use them.

School Visits and Interviews

School visits and interviews are an integral part of applying to private school. Learn why it's important to visit and what to do if that is not possible. Explore school visit options like open houses and shadowing. Get valuable tips on a successful interview and learn what questions you should be asking.